The Mother Superior’s Tears

Euzebia Bartkowiak

Poland

Euzebia BartkowiakEuzebia Bartkowiak

On the morning of Sunday, August 16, 1942, someone knocked on the gate of the Sisters of Resurrection convent in the town of Mir (Stołpe County, Nowogródek District, today, Belarus). Opening the gate, one of the nuns who resided in the convent was astounded to see a man slip in right past her. Oswald Rufajzen (Rufeisen), later, Brother Daniel) had escaped from the police station adjacent to the convent. Oswald had come to Mir from Wilno posing as a Pole. His fluency in German caught the attention of the local German police chief, who made him his interpreter, and took a liking to him. Oswald took advantage of this to inform the Jews of Mir that the date of their liquidation was approaching and helped many of them to escape into the forest, providing some of them with weapons. After Oswald was denounced and arrested, he told the amazed police chief during his interrogation that he was a Jew and that had acted to save his fellow brethren. After getting over the shock of the surprise visitor, the nun who had opened the gate realized that she recognized the man, and knew that he was a fugitive. She took Oswald to the Mother Superior, Euzebia Bartkowiak, who decided to hide him in the loft of the convent’s granary. After Mass she convened the four sisters of the convent to decide what to do with the uninvited guest. Two of the sisters were against letting him stay, but the Mother Superior vehemently rebuffed their opposition and made a decision of conscience to allow him to remain. Euzebia, originally from Poznan, had established the Sisters of Resurrection convent in 1936, and was an unusual character. She was a rare combination of strength, warmth, tolerance, and curiosity about people. She and Oswald developed an extraordinarily warm relationship, as a result of which he was sheltered in the convent until the end of 1943. When the searches in the area intensified and the risk of the Germans discovering him increased, he decided to leave rather than be the cause of harm to the sisters. He set out for the forest on December 2, 1943, accompanied by Euzebia. She parted from him in tears, saying, “Come back to us if you run into difficulties. Do not hesitate to return.” Oswald converted to Christianity during his stay in the convent and afterward became a Carmelite monk in Haifa, known as Brother Daniel.

On June 24, 2002, Yad Vashem recognized Euzebia Bartkowiak as Righteous Among the Nations.

 

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Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany

The Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany works to secure compensation and restitution for survivors of the Holocaust.

Since 1951, the Claims Conference - working in partnership with the State of Israel - has negotiated for and distributed payments from Germany, Austria, other governments, and certain industry; recovered unclaimed German Jewish property; and funded programs to assist the neediest Jewish victims of Nazism.